On Aug. 21, 2020, the U.S. Postal Service released nearly 10,000 pages of records to American Oversight in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. On Sept. 17, 2020, after the documents had been posted publicly and had been discussed in multiple news reports, USPS requested that American Oversight remove the file from this website.
Following conversations with USPS, American Oversight has now reposted a copy of the file that includes redactions requested by the agency on a limited number of pages. Pages that relate to issues that were the subject of public reporting — such as the draft press release regarding the plan to mail face masks to every American household — remain un-redacted.
American Oversight obtained nearly 10,000 pages of U.S. Postal Service documents from spring 2020 that show turmoil at the agency as the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country. The documents, first reported by the Washington Post, show a scrapped plan to mail masks to Americans en masse, conflict over agency operations with Amazon and the Treasury Department, as well as the involvement of a Trump-connected lawyer as the agency was increasingly turned into a political target by the president.
A draft press release in the document trove shows a draft press release announcing “U.S. Postal Service to Deliver Face Coverings to Every American Household.” However, that initiative was nixed by the White House, according to the Post’s reporting.
“There was concern from some in the White House Domestic Policy Council and the office of the vice president that households receiving masks might create concern or panic,” an unnamed administration official told the Post. But during that same time, the documents show that there was already panic among USPS workers: Mail carriers on the frontlines, their families, and union representatives were begging agency leadership for help protecting employees from the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, USPS was also dealing with concerns about operations not only from a major shipping partner, but also from within the government itself. The documents show that during an April 9 meeting, Amazon executives questioned the agency’s financial status and its “viability to them as a continued shipping partner.”
During spring debates over pandemic relief, and as USPS faced mounting financial challenges, President Donald Trump threatened to veto any bill that included direct aid for the post office, resulting in a package that included $10 billion in loans. The records include a memo from an outside law firm that argued that a takeover of the agency by the Treasury Department would be illegal. Other memos discussed potential terms on loans to USPS administered by the Treasury, as USPS faced mounting financial challenges during the pandemic.
The documents show that USPS turned to Trump ally Stefan Passantino for help. Passantino is a former Trump White House deputy counsel who also helped the Trump Organization respond to investigations by House Democrats.
“Why did the Postal Service need the services of Stefan Passantino when his primary claim to fame, the primary reason you hire him, is to carry out Donald Trump’s personal and political defense work?” asked American Oversight executive director Austin Evers.
Part of Investigation: